We used to be a lot more creative: I saw that sitting in the Met yesterday looking at clay bowls and noticing that we used to have to make everything we needed -we the people of the human race. Now what we mostly do is consume. We buy plastic bowls made in other countries in a supermarket lit with fluorescent lighting and everything is a little bit far away from the skin and bone. This is what I was thinking about when I stumbled upon this in the Islamic art gallery:
It is beautiful. And historic. The courtyard of a Moroccan Ryad full of traditional artistry serving as the very structure of it. But at the same time, it looks an awful lot like my first (Marrakshi) husband’s house. They weren’t rich people. They had just been in their little alley folded into the medina qadima (old city – a walled in section of the city built by the Arabs who came to settle in North Africa – called the old city for its differentiation from and contrast to the Ville Nouvelle built by French colonists) for several centuries. I visited and slept at and lived in that house over and over again over years. And then yesterday I found myself standing in front of what felt like a replica of it in a New York City museum. So I started to cry. I didn’t even read the little blurb about it on the card. I could not bother. What could some text typed on a card in a museum possibly tell me?
When I saw two men speaking in low tones and pointing at specific details in the exhibit, I knew they were going to tell me much more.
I asked if they were Moroccan. (Yes!). One of them started to explain what we were looking at and then quickly recognizing the knowing expression in my face and the familiarity in my nodding head, he asked: “You know this. Have you been to Morocco?” I told him a 10 second version of my 7 year “visit” to Morocco and said, “Isn’t it strange to see our home in a museum?” We remarked that we were all feeling homesick. Our bond was created.
Introductions: Mohammed, Abderrahim, Erin. They are from Fes. Fassi. We talked, forgetting about the art. Abderrahim – with his shy silence – made it clear that he doesn’t speak English. We switched over to a mix of the three( English, Moroccan Arabic dialect and French) – heavily favoring French – and told our stories.
Abderrahim is visiting Mohammed from Fes. Mohammed is an Arabic teacher for CUNY. Abderrahim is an accountant. Abderrahim and I pull out photos of our children. He has a little girl, Amira – 5 months old and zwiiiiiina (so beautiful) and he remarks that my Aslam is bogossss (a Moroccan transformation of the French beau gosse – meaning handsome). But we did not just politely appreciate one another’s children. We jumped up and down and squealed the words out and smiled and joked about arranging the marriage of Aslam and Amira. This is what happens in a real Moroccan ryad. This is how we relate to each other – how we greet and appreciate one another. This was better than the blurb on the card typed up by an employee of the museum. This was transportation to another place. And that’s what they put it there for.
And I found myself creating once again. Sure I am going to buy a plastic bowl from Target again someday. But I got to participate in creating a connection and I felt like a human being. I flipped a switch from a moment of feeling very tired and spent and a little bit lost – lost on behalf of all of us – to a moment of creating another human connection – another family. That’s what we are doing here.
I would like to thank the people of Morocco for awakening this in me. No one does it like you do!
And Pour mes amis nouveaux, Sidi Mohammed et Sidi Abderrahim, Je serai on contact tres bientot! C’etait un grand plaisir!!!!